All posts by cudakilla

Video: Jalapeño Fish Recipe

Full recipe here: https://cudakilla.com/2016/05/31/jalapeno-fish-or-calamari-recipe/

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Jalapeño Fish Or Calamari Recipe

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Ingredients:
Approximately 1.5 lb of any fresh firm fleshed fish (amberjack, redfish, shark or mackerel etc.) or equivalent of fresh squid.

  1. 2 egg yolks
  2. Fine Sea Salt
  3. Chinese Five Spice Powder
  4. White Pepper Powder
  5. Fresh Jalapenos – Sliced
  6. Fresh Green Onions – Chopped
  7. Fresh Garlic – Minced
  8. Corn Starch (flour is ok but the crust will be thicker and not as crispy)
  9. Cooking Oil

1) Preparing the Spice Mix:
Heat up sauce pan and add 2 tablespoons of sea salt. When the salt is very well heated up, mix in about 1/2 teaspoon of Five Spice powder. Mix well and turn off heat and set aside.
Heating the salt desiccates it and ensures that the mix will bind immediately with the cooked meats and vegetables once they come in contact. Heating the mixture also releases the oils in the spices which will infuse with the salt. You can mix up a larger batch and store it in an airtight container for future use.

2) Preparing the meat:

For Fish:
Trim, wash, dry and cut fresh fish into small chunks. About 2-2.5″ by 3/4″ size. Set aside in refrigerator for 30 minutes. If your fish is not 100% fresh or has a slight ‘fishy’ odor, try this old restaurant trick of soaking the filets for 30 minutes or so in cold water with half a squeezed lime or lemon in it first.

For Calamari:
Wash and clean squid and blanch them briefly in boiling water for 1-2 minutes.
Remove the thin purplish skin that covers the squid. Discard everything except the sheath and the head with tentacles. Make sure you remove the beak of the squid and the ink from the eyes.
Slice the sheath into rings or strips and halve the heads and tentacles lengthwise.
Dry and set aside in refrigerator for 30 minutes.

3) Marinate:
Add 2 egg yolks in mixing bowl.
For each pound of meat add roughly 1/4 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of white pepper.
Fill a cookie tray or large plate with about a 1/2″ layer of corn starch.
Mix in portions of egg coated fish chunks or calamari till all pieces are thoroughly coated.
Shake off excess coatings and set pieces aside.

flames
A hot wok works wonders

4) Cooking:
Heat deep fryer till 350F and cook fish or calamari for about 2-3 minutes. Do not overcook!
When done remove the fish or calamari from fryer and drain. For the calamari, put the tentacles and head pieces in the fryer first. Followed by the other pieces 1 minute later. You want the tentacles slightly more well done or crispy.

Meanwhile heat up a wok or frying pan.
Add cooking oil and heat till almost smoking.
Toss in a handful of the sliced jalapeños (less if they are very spicy).
The jalapeños are almost ready when they are are slightly charred and you start sneezing so it might be prudent to prepare this dish in a well ventilated or outdoor location.
Add a table spoon or two of mince garlic, then lastly add the chopped green onions. Stir fry mixture together till fragrant.
When the mixture is fragrant, add the deep fried fish or calamari and toss entire mixture together.
Avoid stirring too much at this time as this may break apart the fish pieces. Tossing is preferred.
Reduce heat. Continue tossing the dish in the pan or wok while sprinkling in the Five Spice/ Salt mixture. (Amount of spice mix is your preference but be careful to not make it too salty. About 1/4-1/3 teaspoon is about right for most people.)

Serve steaming hot and enjoy! Best with a nice bright Pinot Grigio!

Recipe is courtesy of Hardy Tong of the Happy Buddha Restaurant, Galveston, TX. You could also bring your catch to his restaurant and have him cook it for you if he is not out fishing! 🙂

Stay tuned for a video of this recipe!

Cebaco Bay, Panama. May 2016

It’s been a dream of mine to venture a little further in search of the things that have been keeping me up at night for as long as I can remember. Such is life when work and other priorities seem to always get in the way. I’m sure what I’m expressing is not much different from those of many others. We’ve all had to pay our dues but it’s now time to do some collecting. Well in 2015 I finally made a conscious decision to start working on my bucket list and I started the wheels rolling by planning a trip to Cebaco Bay, Panama. Finally in May this year we got a group of six together and travelled to Panama City, Panama. Half the group flew out of Houston direct and the other half from LAX, CA. It was an uneventful 4 hour flight(from Houston, 6 from LAX) and we all arrived safely with gear and coolers intact.

IMG_3502_skyline
Panama Waterfront Skyline

Since it was our first trip to this new country we engaged Cebaco Bay Sportfishing’s driver Mel for a couple of days to tour the city and to see the sights. Panama Canal etc. I was surprised at how first world Panama City was with its beautiful skyscrapers and waterfront skyline. It is quite a remarkable resemblance to the waterfront skyline in Singapore. The locals were all very friendly and we were pleasantly surprised that the USD was widely accepted as currency. The Panama canal is indeed an engineering marvel. If you have the time to tour the city, make sure you visit Casco Viejo and the waterfront. Needless to say the nightlife is quite lively (not that I’ve experienced it first hand ;)) and the local food was simply amazing! Be prepared for very bad traffic and congestion in and out of the city. Rush hours there are no joke!

Enough about that. Our driver picked us up early in the morning for a 4 hour ride by minivan to Puerto Mutis. A small fishing port located near the north western coast. From there it was a 2 hour boat ride through a scenic mangrove estuarine system to the Journey Bay anchored in a sheltered cove at Cebaco Island. The Journey Bay is a converted Gulf Coast rig tender and featured a nice party deck with lounge chairs and fully air conditioned staterooms. A long trip you may be thinking  but keep in mind that you will be traveling to and be based in a very remote location that is smack dab to some of the best unspoiled fishing locations in the region. During our entire stay we did not encounter another fishing boat while fishing the area except for the one day at the ever popular Hannibal Bank location.

As soon as we unloaded to the Journey Bay and began unpacking, the crew began setting up the tackle we brought. They thoroughly inspected our gear, checked and/or retied our knots etc and began selecting the appropriate lure for each rod. They also set the drags of the reels. A very good sign that this was indeed a crew that was intuitive and knew what it took to make a client feel confident. We had a good selection of poppers, swimbaits and jigs and the crew seemed to really like the Yozuri Bull Pops and Shibuki type swimbaits. Apparently the Shibuki type lures were like ‘unobtainium’ in Panama. Good thing I brought quite a few. They also rigged up only one of rods with a new Z-Craft 200 gram ‘Cyclops’ slow fall jigs that I brought, and rigged the others with the standard West Coast style knife jigs. They were not too familiar with the new style flat fall jigs (more about this later).

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Sombrero Rock

By 2 pm after a quick lunch, we headed out for some popping. Not much success at our first stop at the usually highly productive Sombrero Rock. We had a couple of good strikes and a few follows but no hook ups. Next stop was at a 120ft drop for some jigging. This was when the flat fall Z-Craft showed everyone the difference. I was using a Rapier built Phenix 6′ 20-60 lb class Titan jigging rod coupled with a Daiwa Saltiga 5000 loaded with 50# Powerpro Slick. First drop with a fast jigging action produced a nice albacore. Then a Snapper, several bonito and then a grouper, followed by several Jack Crevalles, then more albacore, a small yellowfin, grouper etc… Overall a very nice afternoon with lots of hook ups and some nice fresh meat for the table. The California crew did just as well on the other 31′ Bertram. A nice dinner and lots of the local Panama beer later, we ended the day catching endless blue runners and juvenile jacks off the back deck of the Journey Bay with Sabikis. Most of them were held in a live bait tank for the next days fishing. Although we fished mostly with lures, they were a good backup.

Z-Craft_Cyclops
200 and 220 Gram Cyclops

The next day started with breakfast at 6 am. During my customary daybreak walk outside, I noticed that the ‘Xtreme’ crew had already rearranged all the tackle for the day’s fishing and re-rigged ALL the jigging rods with the flat fall Z-Crafts I brought. Very cool! I guess the previous days field tests made them converts!

The following four days were a blur as we caught more fish and species than we could have ever imagined. The extremely competent crew knew exactly what to do at all times – anticipating all our needs and dispositions. For example, they observed that all of us were right handed casters and always positioned the boat with the right bearing for proper casting. They also studied the individual casting skills of the anglers and kept the boat at the right distance from the hot zones. They also knew when to move and change to other techniques by observing how exhausted they were with popping by suggesting a move to a jigging venue.

Each evening was a blast as we joked and laughed about the days events over good food, company and endless Panama beer. Highlight of the trip was a 450 lb Blue Marlin that took over 2 hours in the chair to bring in, and my personal best Pacific Sailfish on a Popper. Total number of species caught? Eighteen – Blue Marlin, Pacific Sailfish, Wahoo, Snapper, Mullet Snapper, Bluefin Trevally, Roosterfish, Cubera Snapper, Rainbow Runner, African Pompano, Bonito, Albacore, White Tuna, Yellowfin Tuna, Parrot fish, Trigger fish, Black Grouper, Broom Tail Grouper.

This report would not be complete without mentioning the incredible service aboard the mothership Journey Bay. Abner the chef was amazing and never failed to surprise us with the variety of dishes and how accommodating he was when one of our guys – an amazing chef in his own right wanted to whip up some dishes with the fresh fish we had caught. And Abdiel the Operations Manager and his team that made sure we had fresh towels, did our laundry and pretty much everything else to make us more than comfortable. By the end of the 3rd day our group had already unanimously decided that we will be back to Cebaco Bay. In fact we have already booked our trip for 2017 but I suspect that we may be back very much sooner!

If you need more info or help organizing a trip and recommendations about when, where and how, please feel free to leave a comment for me at the bottom of the page.

Here’s a little music video I put together about the trip. The music score is by Makano. A local Panamanian pop singer. Hope you enjoy the video and pics!

Port Aransas Texas 9/30 – 10/1/2014 Fishing Report

Gulf Coast King Mackerel
My ‘Patriot’ Color Scheme Rod with a Daiwa Saltiga Lever Drag Reel

After a few less than stellar trips, we finally found a couple of days that looked promising so we made the trip from Austin. Tuesday was ok, we got there a bit late and missed the morning bite. The upside is that we also missed the showers that were blowing through early morning. We did get about 15 smacks and 5 pompanos. Skip jacks everywhere. No takes on the slide rigs. Water conditions were nice.

Wednesday was the ticket. We got there before daybreak and set up. A friend who stayed on the pier overnight had just landed a 8 ft bull shark. Huge Spanish Mackerel were hitting just before light. I threw out an old silver Abu Koster spoon (anyone know where I can get more?) that I had for a while, with a rod that I had just built. It was based on an MHX 8′ 6″ blank rated for 8-15lb. The first cast had several strong whacks that did not connect. Half way through the retrieve, something solid connected and smoked out 20-30 yds of line off my Daiwa Certate 3000. I was slowly pumping it in when the fish suddenly stopped and made a high speed run quartering back to the pier. I reeled slack line frantically and ran to the side to get on top of the fish. This was where the high gear ratio of the Certate came in handy. I had to lean far over the railing with the rod to keep the fish from the pilings.  I thought I was going to either break the line or the rod! Fortunately as is typical of Spanish Mackerels, when you get them to this point, they have pretty much burnt themselves out. This was a huge one too! The largest I’ve seen this season. Easily 25-26″ and fat. After landing the fish I discovered that the 10′ of 30lb test mono top shot was frayed to hell and needed replacing.

Spanish Mackerel
Magnum Spanish Mackerel

During the entire day any kind of silver spoon produced the bigger fish. Green and white jigs worked well too. Some pompano were even caught on green jigs and silver/redhead Gotcha plugs. Aside from the little baby pomp I caught with the Sabiki while catching bait, all the Pompanos caught were larger fish in the 15-17″ range. This continued most of the day till we were all worn out. We had to work our way through lots of Skipjacks which was exhausting. They were tearing up schools of small shad everywhere. The water was literally boiling. Pompanos were mixed in there too but were harder to catch because of the Spanish Mackerel and Skipjacks. We started packing up about 5pm. The last rods to be packed were the slide rigs. While I was cleaning up gear, the slide rigged bait on my self built rod with the Saltiga Lever Drag 30 popped of the release clip and the reel started screaming. I let the fish have his head for about 15 -20 secs by leaving the drag at strike setting. Just enjoying the shrill scream of the reels clicker before tightening up and setting the hook. Seems I burned him up by letting him run so far because he came in quite docile. He was quickly netted and decked. A 25 lb king mackerel is a real nice way to end a trip. Bait was a feisty juvenile Jack Crevalle.

During the day we also saw a huge school of bull reds. The run should start real soon. And a small pod of 2-3 ft tarpon. We also got quite a few 4 ft black tips that we threw back.

Bait balls consisting of mainly of 1-2″ shad were everywhere and the Spanish Mackerel and Skipjacks were just destroying them. Winds light SE/E 6-10 mph, seas were 1-2 ft with no chop. Water was clear green but towards end of day when winds picked up, there a light chop and the clarity diminished. Water temp hovered around 80-81F.

Final tally was a 2 man, 2 day possession limit of 60 Spanish Mackerel (we threw back many smaller fish of less than 16″) and about 17 very good sized pompanos. And countless Skipjacks!

Overall it was an incredible trip with good company, meeting some new friends and catching up with some old ones. Even met a really nice couple from North Texas that recognized me from this blog! What more could a man ask for?  Tight lines!

Port Aransas TX Report – Kingfish

Daiwa Certate 4000, 20lb Power Pro Line, Live Bluerunner, IRW Custom Rapier 10ft 15lb class rod
Daiwa Certate 4000, 20lb Power Pro Line, Live Bluerunner, Rapier Built IRW Custom 9ft 15lb class rod

Thanks to the wonders of the internet we found a good two days with perfect weather for fishing. Trying to repeat the killer 2 days we had last week.

First day morning was beautiful with light winds clean water. Bait plentiful but fishing was slow with piggies killing the live shrimp no matter how far you cast. So we resorted to lures. Caught about 20 Spanish Mackerels of good size. Winds picked up and swung around to ESE and kings showed up. Had two piggies on slide rigs taken without hooking up. 3pm a 3 ft blacktip nailed one of the baits that was landed and released. Finally at about 4 pm, nailed a 40lb king. Using 9 ft steelhead type rods with Stella 4000 sized reels and 20lb Powerpro, they were fun to fight! Had one more hit just before dark that pulled out at the net.

2nd day was even nicer. Flat calm seas with almost no wind. Big Spanish Mackerel were everywhere. Caught limits of them up to 4 lbs with small jigs. No pompanos like last week when we landed almost 40 of them. Winds picked up afternoon and swung from N/NE/NW to E/ESE/SE. Slight chop on the water. I knew it was now on!! 3pm first knock down on the slide rig. It took both baits we had out and cut the second line off. Did not hook up for some reason. Second knock down took 180 yds of line off my Daiwa Saltiga 30 and pulled off. Third knock down was the charm.

kingfish02
KIngfish that did not get away

We saw 3 huge kings circling the live piggy. I lowered the bait slightly deeper and game was on when one of them quickly turned and nailed it. After 4 blistering runs I landed a 45 lb king. On the fourth knock down we saw a huge Kingfish come out from under the pier, jump clear out of the water and nail the bait. It took 180 yds of line on the first run. I was pumping it in when it started to greyhound out in the distance while taking line. I’ve never ever seen that before from a Kingfish. What followed was big explosion of white water and she flew clear out of the water! A huge tail of tiger shark waved in the air. Water turned red and a big oily slick covered the water. I knew then that the fight was over and I had lost. See picture for the outcome. Last knock down of the day was on a live piggy on a float just at dusk. Line cut by another fish after the first run. This was one of the better days we’ve ever had on the pier.

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2/3 of a 54″ Kingfish
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Garlic and ginger basted Kingfish Steaks

All in all a very good trip to end the season for me. Lot’s of meat in the freezer and dinner on the table.

Gulf Coast Spanish Mackerel and Pompano Tips

Florida Pompano
A typical Florida Pompano (about 18″)

I’ll share this method that we use with great success just about everywhere we fish for Pompano and Spanish Mackerel or ‘Smacks’ as they are often called. In Hawaii, this method is also called ‘whipping’. A very successful method if you have the right gear. We often get other species like kingfish, bluefish and Jack Crevalles this way too.

  • 8-10′ fast action rods. 8-15 lb class. I like Steelhead 2 pc rods
  • Spinning reel: 4000 size with 20lb power pro
  • Terminal rig is basically a bubble float that you fill with water for casting distance (clear because any other color will invite strikes that will cut you off). In the picture I’ve rigged the float up with quality BLACK swivels at each end. Makes it easier to change leaders when cut off.
  • 6-7′ 30# mono between the float and lure(length allows the lure to ride a bit deeper and keep the strikes away from float)
  • 5″ of single strand coffee colored wire 28# to 35# test tied to lure (short length is all you need. I personally only use a 3″ section)
  • Lures of choice are chartreuse speck rig jigs. Because they are so cheap to buy. Spoons and plugs work too but cost much more. Plastics don’t last long. 1/4 oz is best as they have a much heavier duty hook. It’s pretty sad to be catching fish every other cast and see some new guy come along with a nice Rapala or Mirrorlure and try and get in on the action, only to lose a $5-6 lure on the first cast. Color is VERY important. We’ve tried others but Chartreuse is THE BEST color for smacks. You get two to a pack. Just cut off the mono and tie on with wire. One lure per rig is enough. You cannot work two effectively. You can buy them here: http://www.hhlure.com/products/speck-redfish-rig

Method: cast as far as you can, feather the spool at end of cast and the lure will fly ahead of the float and straighten the rig when it hits the water. Useful when it is windy because if you get the lure wrapped over the float, the smack will hit it and cut you off. Whip the rod on a fast retrieve to make the float splash on the surface. Pausing between the splashes will allow the jig to sink a bit. The big ones seem to like the slower retrieve. Sometimes fast and frenetic whipping will often drive bite shy fish crazy. You will often see 3-4 fish fighting over the lure during a retrieve. When you have a fish on try and hold rod up when fighting the fish to keep as much of your line out of the water . Often other smacks will try and hit the lure that is already on the fish or even the float itself. Anything that is a knot or swivel will create a bubble trail in the water during a fight and will invite strikes and subsequent cutoffs.

You may substitute the bubble float for a conventional float (a Launcher float is great for this) and the jig for a live shrimp on a small treble and that will work extremely well too when the fish are fussy.

Splash Rig
Simple Splash Rig

When the smacks are not around, I do away with the wire and tie on a banana jig for pompano.  The pink and yellow color works really well for them.  The colors mimic the ghost shrimp that Pompano feed regularly on. Pompano are generally bottom feeders so to target them you need to have a longer leader (5-7′) so the lure will have a chance to get down to them.  When retrieving, splash the float a couple of times and let sit for 4-5 seconds to allow the lure to flutter down deeper.  The surface splashing will draw their attention to the jig.  Often you will see two or three of them cruising the surface chasing or following the float. When that happens, stop your retrieve and they will go back down after your lure. Here’s a pic of some of my favorite banana jigs.

Doc's Goofy Jigs
Doc’s Goofy Jigs

Pompano season is coming up soon (Sept – Mar).  Best time for them is when the seas are calm after a north wind.  Light northers along the mid to south Texas coast will tend to push bait out from the beach and the pompano are there to feast on small crabs and ghost shrimp. Down there we call these days ‘pomp days’ and are an anxiously awaited event when pompano can be caught right in the surf.

Pompano are also primarily sight feeders so clear water is good time to fish for them but they do rely on scent to locate food (see my post about chumming).  I have fished for them overseas with live bait in murky water and was being out fished by the locals 10 to 1.  They told me to lightly step on the shrimp to get some of the juices out.  It seemed counter intuitive to me to step on a perfectly good live bait but it did worked.  Which is why I have often seen people catch pompano on the pier with fresh dead peeled shrimp when water conditions were far from clear.   These days I always tip my jig or even my live shrimp with a little bit of peeled dead shrimp when I am hunting for them.

I have heard that the best bait for pompano are ghost shrimp but I have never tried catching or have ever used them.  Apparently they are not difficult to catch with store bought ghost shrimp pumps.  I might give them a try this year as I heard they are good for sheephead too.

I know that many folks do really well with shrimp tipped with Fsh Bites. I’ve tried it and can testify that it really works!

That’s all. It doesn’t get any simpler and cheaper. Trust me these techniques really work. Just don’t learn it so well and crowd me out when you see me whipping away happily on the pier.  We were doing this very successfully on 91st pier 12-15 years ago until some others caught on to this technique. Then it became impossible to fish that way anymore as we almost always got crowded out. Now we just fish somewhere else.

Kin
A nice Kingfish caught on light spinning tackle
Spanish Mackerel and Pompanos
A mess of Pompano and Spanish Mackerel

Texas Gulf Coast Flounder

Texas Flounder

Floundering is fun! And we’re getting to the best time of the year for them. The cool fronts that come down at that time of year makes them feed like crazy before they move to the gulf to spawn. Look for them in the flats and then as the water cools, they’ll be in the channels leading to large bodies of water. Best place to find them is in the shallows very early in the morning and the drop offs as the day progresses. A good falling tide is great as they’ll be waiting at the drop offs as bait fish move off the shallows.

Rig with a sliding sinker, swivel and a short length of leader. Silver Johnson Sprite spoons and plastics work well too dragged on the bottom and flipped gently ever so often. Flounder are ambush species so whether you’re using bait or lures the key is to cover water. So casting and slow retrieves works better than a static presentation of casting with bait and wait. Live bait in the form of finger sized mullet work extremely well but are a PITA to deal with (difficult to catch and expensive to buy) so I personally mostly just use a jig head with a wiggly plastic tail like a flapping shad or a scented Berkley Gulp.  Many of my friend love the Flounder Pounder and tandem style jigs. Color doesn’t matter but I find the darker colors work well in off colored water and darker days and light colors on bright days. Very often we’ll cut strips of any kind of bait fish like pin perch and tip the jigs with a tiny piece.  Basically you will present the flounder with vibration from the lure wiggling, sight from the contrast of the lure against the surface, scent from the piece of cut bait.  The only thing left is to find where they are at and give them a chance to jump on your hook!

My favorite technique is fishing on any pier by dropping a rigged mullet or a jig head with Gulp or any kind of plastic lure with lot’s of wiggle action and walking the length of the pier until I get a bump. Then reel up the slack until I am directly on top of the fish before I set the hook.

Back Bay Flouder
Some flounder tips:
Think of them as very slow moving landmines in a video game. You have to keep casting till you get a lure within striking range of one. Stop your very slow retrieve ever so often and just jiggle the lure to let them come to it. If you have been gigging you’ll see that flounder do not really move very fast or often (unless you tickle them with a gig then they take off like a rocket!). Casting a bait and waiting is one of the worse ways to fish for flounder.

  • At this junction I need to indulge myself in a small rant. Some folks who are just too darn lazy will fish with a baited rod every two feet.  Up to 6-7 rods per person. I used to see this happen on 91st Street pier in Galveston.  This is not only unproductive but selfish.  Especially selfish after they have seen you land a fish in that area. OK rant over.

When you do get a bump, do not set the hook right away. Wait at least 10-15 secs. Pull on it lightly a few times to tease them to swallow the lure (this also lets you know how big a fish you may have on). If you lift it gently you can actually feel how heavy the fish is. Once I actually coaxed a flounder right to the bank just by slowly pulling him in without setting the hook. Sometimes when I feel that I have a really good fish on that I can’t swing up on the bank, I will free spool the reel and go get my net before setting the hook. This shows that once a flounder has a lure, they will almost never let it go. Even if they are gorged, they will still hold a bait a long time because they are so full they are unable to swallow it. If you miss a strike, cast back to the spot again as they will not have wandered far. When setting the hook, my method is to reel the line till tight, drop the rod tip 10-12″ then snap set the hook hard once. 90% of the time, this style of hook set with a jig head will result in a hook point that penetrates right through the top cheek. I have never lost a flounder doing it this way. This is a firm enough hook set that will allow you to swing the flounder up onto the pier or beach without a net.

Another good tip is to walk into a spot that a rookie fisherman has just vacated or has lost a fish. Most folks work the lure too fast and do not cover the area thoroughly. The flounder may have followed their lure but because it is moving too fast are unable to catch it. Or has set the hook too early and lost the fish. The result is that this fisherman has unwittingly lured the flounder to almost at his feet and walked away. I have caught many a good flounder this way, to the chagrin of the fisherman vacating the spot.  Also most flounder I have caught have been no more than 5-6 ft in front of me.  Good luck and go get them! The big mommas should be around till at least Christmas or till the water gets below 40 degrees.